In 1929, Dad and Mother were appointed as missionaries to the Arabian Mission of the Reformed Church of America. They left that fall and arrived in time to attend Annual Meeting in Bahrain. They were sent to Basrah for two years of language study, following which Dad was assigned again to the Basrah Boys School, where he taught English and Bible. He became Principal of the school in 1949 when John Van Ess retired. Mother worked with Dorothy Van Ess with young girls from poorer families who could not go to school, offering classes in literacy, sewing, health and child care. After 37 years of service, they retired in 1966, the year the Mission celebrated its Diamond Jubilee.

Though it was still a time of some hope and optimism, there were already signs of the hard times to come. In 1969, the Iraqi government seized the schools in Basrah and expelled all foreign missionaries in Iraq. It had already expropriated the hospital in Amarah ten years earlier. Over the next two decades, the Mission itself decided to close most of its institutions in the Gulf stations. The Mission would not survive to celebrate its Centenary.

The Arabian Mission
Annual Meeting, Bahrain 1929

Back Row: Rachel Jackson, Elizabeth Dame, Victoria Storm, Dorothy Van Ess, Josephine Van Peursem, Dr. Rottschafer,* Elda Hakken, Regina Harrison, Bessie Mylrea, Christine Gosselink, Everdene De Jong, Gertrude Pennings, Edwin Calverly, Mary Tiffany, Ester Barney, Gerrit Van Peursem, Cornelia Dalenberg, Ruth Jackson

Second Row: Gerrit Pennings, John Van Ess, Fanny Lutton, Dr. Van Keersen,* Miss Dodd,* Duke Potter,* George Hulst,* Fred Barney, Harold Storm, Sarah Hosmon, Minnie Dykstra

Front Row: George Gosselink, Gary De Jong, Paul Harrison, Bern Hakken, Stanley Mylrea, Louis Dame, Dirk Dykstra

*Visitors from the Board of Foreign Missions and Arcot Mission in India

The history of the Arabian Mission is a remarkable story of service and ministry. While it was never able to win many converts or establish a self-sustaining indigenous church, over the years it gained a wide acceptance throughout the area and won the respect and friendship of kings and shaikhs, of merchants and camel drivers and all the many people who had contact with it. The Reformed Church of America still supports some missionaries in the area, but the Arabian Mission essentially ceased to exist by the early 1980s, after the discovery of oil brought new wealth to that part of the world and local governments took on the responsibility of providing education and medical services for their people. Still, the reluctance of the ruling powers of Kuwait, Bahrain and Muscat to accept the closing of the mission hospitals, even after they had established their own facilities, is a testament to the value they placed on the presence of the missionaries. Indeed the American Mission Hospital in Bahrain was not closed but continues to operate under the sponsorship and with the support of the Emir of Bahrain.

It is difficult to assess the contribution which the Arabian Mission made to later developments in that part of the world, though its influence, especially in the early days, can not be denied. But perhaps that is not the point. Lewis Scudder has written, “In the end, the achievement of the Arabian Mission was one and one only: the demonstration of faithfulness in service to a call divinely given.” (The Arabian Mission Story, p. 431) Beyond that, the missionaries themselves would probably have said in typically Arab fashion, with typically Arab literalism, “Only God knows.” And they were content with that.

epilogue.html;  11 July 2012